AMMENDMENT WOULD RESTORE TONGASS
March 04, 2009
WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska,
on Monday introduced an amendment to the omnibus spending bill
to reinstate funding for the Tongass Timber Fund in the Department
of Agriculture's annual budget.
In 1980, Congress passed legislation that set aside 5.4 million
acres of new wilderness in the Tongass National Forest under
the Alaska Native Indian Lands Claim Act (ANILCA). In exchange
for the wilderness designation, Congress directed the Secretary
of Agriculture to provide up to $40 million to support a timber
sale program in the Tongass National Forest and to provide 450
million board feet of timber for sale annually.
"Congress made a long-term commitment to Southeast Alaska
to support the timber industry and now it doesn't want to live
up to its end of the bargain," Murkowski said. "This
funding is vital for the survival of Southeast communities."
While the program has never been fully implemented the
current U.S. Forest Service timber plan for the Tongass calls
for the sale of just 100 million board feet Congress has
consistently provided $4 million to $5 million a year for the
Timber Products program to prepare and sell timber from the Tongass
National Forest. Until the House passed H.R. 1105 this past week,
"I am concerned that this Congress is on the verge of stripping
the $5 million in the Tongass Timber Fund without even having
a conversation about it," Murkowski said. "Funding
for the Tongass has been approved by this body for the last 15
years, and now in the blink of an eye, in a conference with no
input from the Alaska delegation, the Appropriations Committee
stripped these important funds from the bill."
"I would remind my fellow senators that Congress promised
the people of Southeast Alaska a timber sale program of 450 million
board feet per year and the Forest Service has reduced that volume
in every iteration of the forest plan and every year in its budget
request," Murkowski said. "This body made a promise
that it has never fully lived up to and now it's trying to abdicate
its responsibility to Southeast Alaska completely."
The omnibus appropriations bill is currently on the Senate floor.
Murkowski said she's concerned that Majority Leader Harry Reid
will move to limit changes to the bill by refusing to consider
The original authorizing language to pay for development of timber
sales from the Tongass National Forest with funding from the
Forest Systems Account is included in section 705(a) of ANILCA.
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